The conventional view about professional athletes is that they stick to a single sport or discipline and then train vigorously within that discipline to reach new levels of skill and physical achievement. However what many athletes often do is mix and match various disciplines in order to complement their training regimen.
This is especially true when athletes incorporate martial arts into their training. The martial arts involve a variety of disciplines that are highly effective at helping their practitioners achieve peak physical and mental condition. Martial arts serve to build focus, mental discipline, flexibility, energy, strength, and other critical attributes in practitioners. Specific martial arts disciplines can even be utilized to develop targeted skills such as footwork and pass protection in football.
Whatever type of athletic activity you’re involved in, martial arts disciplines are some of the best elements you can add to your training regimen to achieve higher levels of conditioning. Here are 4 martial arts disciplines that are sure to make you a better athlete.
1. Muay Thai
Muay Thai has become wildly popular among martial arts enthusiasts for its unique style that emphasizes creative usage of unconventional parts of the body for striking. Sometimes referred to as the “art of 8 limbs,” Muay Thai makes use of elbows, shins, and knees in addition to fists and feet.
Because of this full range of physical contact, Muay Thai training tends to be extremely intensive and thorough. Athletes who practice this martial art are able to derive the benefit of a full body conditioning that has few rivals. Like many other martial arts disciplines, Muay Thai makes use of shadowboxing, running, jump-roping, weight training, medicine ball and abdominal exercises to complement technique training. This discipline also makes extensive use of the heavy bag to strengthen less-examined regions like the shin bone, which can have practical applications for other sports as well.
It is common in Western societies to generalize many types of martial arts as “karate,” whereas karate itself is a distinct martial arts discipline with its own body of techniques, training methods, philosophy, and history. There is a good reason for this generalization though, since karate gained international fame for its legendary power, and the discipline was catapulted into the mainstream thanks to martial arts movies focusing on karate. Today karate is still revered as one of the great martial arts disciplines to come out of the East, and enjoys a dedicated following.
Karate is a versatile system of martial arts that includes punches, kicks, throws, grapples, and joint-locks, and you can expect to get a full-body workout practicing it. One standout attribute of karate is its unique emphasis on mental discipline. Every martial arts discipline involves some sort of mental conditioning, but with karate it is something that has been a major part of the practice for centuries.
Those practicing karate can expect to work on mental focus, humility, and conscientiousness among other things. This can help athletes perform better on the field, execute various actions more effectively, and get more out of their training because they are better absorbing instructions.
Boxing is the premier Western martial arts discipline and physical training pastime. Regarded as a combat sport that is thought to have its origins in ancient Greece, boxing has been further developed since then in Great Britain and the United States.
Boxing places a greater emphasis on developing upper-body strength, as the sport’s rules require punches with the arms and fists that are to land no lower than the belt. Boxing is an engaging way to build up core strength and work on the arms and shoulders. Of course boxing also requires carefully coordinated footwork as well, so you can expect to work on overall coordination, flexibility, and cardio in your training.
MMA has become a popular martial arts discipline of choice for many athletes thanks to its versatility and flexibility. It is in the name: Mixed Martial Arts is the practice of many different techniques and styles taken from all sorts of disciplines. Originally MMA was conducted as a competition to find out which martial arts disciplines were the best, and since then the competition style has really taken off.
You could say that MMA includes all of the martial arts disciplines mentioned above as well, except that practitioners of MMA are less inclined to devote themselves to unique martial arts disciplines and their given emphases and constraints.
The “no holds barred” ethos of MMA means punches, kicks, wrestling and grappling, and many other techniques are accepted in the sport. This translates to a highly variable training regimen that can be tailored to the athlete’s specific needs.
Whatever the martial arts discipline, athletes undergoing training almost universally opt for safety gear like boxing gloves and mouth guards to accompany their training regimens. Demanding workouts like these – and the sparring that accompanies them – can be dangerous without adequate protection. With the proper training and technique, anyone can become a better athlete by applying the lessons and benefits that martial arts have to offer.
Carl Turner is a personal trainer and freelance lifestyle writer from Los Angeles, California. With over 10 years of experience, he has trained many clients and has helped them to reach their personal fitness goals. During his free time, he enjoys kayaking, hiking, and reading.
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